How to Know If a Recipe is Healthy

With so many recipes to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones are healthier choices. A healthy recipe focuses on the four food groups from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, and has less added fats, sugar and salt. When you are choosing recipes, the two key things to consider are the ingredients and cooking method.

Look for Healthy Ingredients

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Look for recipes that use colourful vegetables and/or fruits (e.g. broccoli, sweet potato or red peppers).

Grain Products

  • Look for recipes that use whole grains and whole grain products (e.g. whole grain wheat, barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa and wild rice).
  • Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt.

Milk and Milk Alternatives

  • Look for recipes that use a milk fat (M.F.) of 2% or less for milk, evaporated milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and lower fat cheeses.
  • Select unsweetened varieties.

Meat and Alternatives

  • Look for recipes that use extra lean or lean cuts of meat (e.g. skinless chicken breast, extra lean ground beef) and trim visible fat like removing the skin from poultry.
  • Also look for recipes that use water-packed canned fish, meat or alternatives. Avoid those packed in oil or other high-fat or high salt sauces.
  • Try including plant-based sources of protein such as beans and legumes, as they are good sources of protein and are also cheaper than animal sources of protein.

Oils and Fats

  • Try to avoid oils and fats with trans fats (e.g. lard, hard margarines and shortening) and saturated fats (e.g. coconut cream or palm kernel oils).
    • Use vegetable oils such as canola, olive, soybean, and sunflower oils. These contain mainly unsaturated fats.
    • Instead of oils, flavour foods when possible with garlic, lemon, vinegars, wines, herbs and spices.

Note: Some recipes may provide a healthier version that replaces less nutritious ingredients with healthier ones (e.g. replace iceberg with romaine lettuce or cream with 2% evaporated milk).

Look for Lower Fat Cooking Methods

Try grilling, broiling, baking, roasting, sautéing or stir-frying, searing, braising, steaming, poaching and simmering. Avoid frying.

More Healthy Recipe Sources

You can find many great tasting and nutritious recipes at:

Learn about food safety how to prepare, handle and cook food safely.

If you are not sure whether a recipe is healthy, call Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 to speak to a Registered Dietitian.